Next Level Social Media: Reaching New Audiences with TikTok

TikTok is a social media channel that remains largely unexplored by nonprofits, but it is a platform with the potential to help many organizations reach new audiences and creatively redefine the limits of their outreach strategy. From community-building to fundraising, this instalment of our Next Level Social Media series will explore what TikTok is all about and how nonprofits can make the most of it. 


What is TikTok? 

TikTok is one of world’s most rapidly growing social media platforms. It was first launched in 2017 as a video-sharing app directed primarily at teens. In a handful of years, however, TikTok has grown into a veritable powerhouse, boasting over 1 billion users worldwide.

Like Instagram, TikTok is a primarily visual platform. Unlike Instagram, however, it centers exclusively around video, with an interface that creatively challenges users to share stories in short video bursts, typically between 15 to 60 seconds (an amount that has now been increased to a few minutes). Part of TikTok’s popularity is the app’s intuitive posting tools, which make it easy for videos shot from smartphones to be quickly edited and enhanced with features such as stickers, filters, voiceovers, and more.

Should Nonprofits Use TikTok?

While at first TikTok may seem irrelevant or intimidating, the platform could be a real asset for nonprofits. Its meteoric rise aside, there are several advantages to adding TikTok to an organization’s social media roster, such as:

  • The opportunity to reach new audiences: while TikTok first gained popularity with users between the ages of 16-24, that age range is expanding and presents an opportunity to engage an audience base that is known for its dynamism and enthusiasm; 

  • TikTok is not just about music! The platform is now also known for its instructional and educational videos, meaning that nonprofits can leverage the app to increase awareness about their mission, programs and fundraising efforts.

  • TikTok has a refined algoirthm that keeps track of which videos are being watched all the way through, using that information to suggest highly curated content to its users. This means that, while its audience base keeps growing, your videos are more likely to reach exactly the kind of users who would be most interested in your content. 


How Nonprofits Can Leverage TikTok

With this in mind, there are several ways that nonprofits can make the most of their presence on TikTok. Some tried-and-true options that are fairly easy to implement include: Hashtag Challenges; informational videos; cross-platform sharing; and donation stickers. The first three are fairly well-known outreach strategies, so this section will unpack donation stickers in greater detail. 

Donation Stickers are an interactive element that users can embed directly in both the videos they post as well as their Live streams. In a single tap, users can be guided to a pop-up window through which they can make a donation to a cause without ever needing to leave the app. What’s more, TikTok recently launched a feature that allows users to display a nonprofit they care about on their public profile, meaning that whoever discovers and/or follows their account will have instant access to a link through which they can make a donation. This means that, in essence, supporters of your nonprofit can fundraise on your behalf on an ongoing basis.

With the rise of instructional and educational videos, TikTok has also launched a For Good page through which the company documents its commitment to social change and highlights worthy causes and events. In recent years, for example, TikTok has participated in events like the ‘Free to be you, #ForYourPride’ celebrations. In addition to introducing the hashtag, TikTok used its For Good page to showcase its  ‘LGBTQ+ Trailblazers’ and to announce special musical performances and community-building events on TikTok LIVE.

More recently, in recognition of the climate change negotiations that just took place in Scotland, TikTok featured the #ForClimate hashtag on its platform, which reached over 533 million views. As Wired put it, TikTok is “one of the world’s most active communication platforms”, so a presence on the platform is a great opportunity to redefine what it means to do science communication and raise public awareness on pressing issues. The Wired article goes on to describe a pioneering ‘knowledge brokers’ program through which school-age students are using TikTok to run workshops on how to leverage positive storytelling strategies on TikTok. Others have been taking to TikTok to show their commitment to change in action, for example, though hashtags such as #Thrifting, #Upcycling, and #PlantBased that show how sustainable lifestyles could be implemented in day-to-day life. 

In Canada, TikTok has also recently donated $1 million to a number of charitable and not-for-profit organizations across every province and territory, to support them in the delivery of services during COVID-19 to some of the most vulnerable communities and those most impacted by the pandemic, including youth, Black and Indigenous communities, LGBTQ2S+, and organizations providing mental health services. Visit the app’s Community Relief Fund to learn more.

Curious to see how other nonprofits are using TikTok? Check out the World Health Organization or Giving Tuesday’s profiles for inspiration.

Further Reading

TikTok for Nonprofits: The Beginner’s Guide (Wild Apricot)
Handbook for TikTok for Non-Profits and Digital Diplomacy (Medium)
Green Teen Memes: How TikTok Could Save the Planet (The Guardian)
TikTok Test Lets Users Fundraise for Charity from Their Profile (TechCrunch)


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